Feds Go After Apartment Complex For Refusing To Adjust Man's Rental
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 7, 2006
YPSILANTI, MICHIGAN--The manager of an apartment complex has been charged with violating federal law by refusing to adjust the due date of a man's rent to match with his Social Security disability payment.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced last week that it had charged Nicole Morbach, property manager at the Fairway Trails Apartments, Benchmark Management Corporation, the management company, Benchmark Michigan Properties, Inc., the general partner and apartment owner Fairway Trails Limited, L.P., with discriminating against former tenant Harry Tyus in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
According to a HUD press release, Tyus, 57, asked in 2004 for a reasonable accommodation on his lease agreement so that his rent payment would be due on the third Wednesday, when he receives his disability check, instead of the first day of the month in order to avoid paying a $50 late fee.
Morbach allegedly turned down the request, and was later backed up by Fairway Trails and Benchmark, which responded that changing the due date for Tyus "would result in extending a preference".
When Tyus did not pay his July 2004 rent on time, Fairway Trails Apartments started the process to evict him. It continued that process even though he paid the rent and the late fee on July 22.
In October 2004, a Washtenaw County district judge ruled that Fairway Trails should have adjusted the rent due date for Tyus, and that the company was not entitled to the late fee.
Later that month, the company informed Tyus that they would not renew his lease when it expired the following January.
"Retaliation in cases like this is more mean spirited, it is against the law," said Kim Kendrick, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
A HUD spokesperson told the Ann Arbor News that the agency would try to negotiate an agreement between Fairway and Tyus. If that does not work, the case could go to a HUD administrative law judge or federal court, which means that the company could be ordered to pay a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for the first offense, plus other fees and damages.